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Irish musician Alan Morrisroe starts New Jersey’s year right

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Alan Morrisroe
Now that the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference is over (APAP) and its focus on how to make Irish music commercially viable, it is nice to return to paying attention to the everyday stalwarts who play a large part in keeping traditional music alive in so many quarters.  

Over in New Jersey, the doyenne of traditional Irish music concerts and sessions at the Irish American Association of North Jersey (www.iaanj.org), Iris Nevins, has another fascinating guest this Saturday, January 26, at 8 p.m. with box player Alan Morrisroe from Co. Mayo returning to familiar stomping grounds in Rockaway, New Jersey.

Morrisroe is one of those indefatigable musicians who not only seeks out chunes they want to play, but surround them with research and a genuine gra for the music that elevates them beyond just pleasurable listening.  They become a powerful reflection on the Irish experience and how our heritage is handed down from generation to generation. 

Nevins has taken a real shine to Morrisroe’s intense playing and commitment to his music, and has presented him a number of times and aided his research here in North America. 

It was at one of his earlier concerts that I learned of his fascination with a Galway accordion player named Peter Conlon whose legacy may have been the equal of the legendary Michael Coleman, at least for those who follow Irish accordion music.

Morrisroe and Charlie Harris were fascinated by the box player, reared by Mayo parents just over the border in Gurrane as were many other great accordion players down through the years who were exposed to Conlon’s early recordings in America.  

But thanks to prodigious work by Morrisroe, Harris and Gerry Clarke we now know the seismic work of J. Conlon (1892-1967), recording 50 Irish tunes on the melodeon in the very early days of the 20th century from 1917-1929. It was within five years of his landing in New York via Ellis Island with $25 in his pocket for his new life in America.

His is a colorful tale told in a 44 page booklet enclosed in a two-CD collection of 47 of the tunes that Conlon recorded for respective record companies that displayed a mastery of his instrument and Irish music. 

Entitled The Genius of Peter Conlon, it has just been published by Oldtime Records (www.oldtimerecords.com) and for serious traditional Irish music historians, a very worthwhile acquisition to your personal collection.  It sheds considerable light on a highly respected traditional musician who has influenced so many great box players who followed in his footsteps over the next century, and who was a man of mystery for many of us who didn’t know his colorful story.

Morrisroe will have much more detail to share out in New Jersey this Saturday and probably a few copies to purchase along with his own music.

It is well worth taking a musical pilgrimage out to Western New Jersey.  Nevins and volunteers always put out a great spread of snacks to go along with their musical treats.  And there is always a music session after the concerts. 

Email Nevins at irisnevins@verizon.net or phone 908-813-8617 for more info on the Alan Morrisroe experience.

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